Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Good Life: Justifying $600 dinners using Greek philosophers and Economic Theory

Extracted from a conversation, in which the correspondent expressed his disdain for those who spend $350 a person for dinner.

I personally see no problem with spending $650 for a dinner for two. Not that I do so especially often, but I think it is well worth it.

Why should life be only about investment in new knowledge? Why should the pursuit of sensation be considered a “pusillanimous … waste of time and resources?”

Let's think about this from the utilitarian model which would have a hard time justifying investment for investment sake if the investment is never translated into consumption. Rather, a standard exponential discounter would pursue consumption in moderation smoothed across a lifespan.

I suppose, since you seem to give great weight to classical thought, I can perhaps cite Epicurus as justification for the enjoyment of consumption.

More simply, in your pursuit of knowledge, who is to say that knowledge (and in particular wisdom) is contained only in text and introspection (Hume and Descartes be damned and heck if you believed them, you’d have to reject modern science as well).

I do agree that the pursuit of knowledge is a worthy pursuit, but also believe that knowledge comes in many forms. James C Scott calls the wisdom that can only come from experience metis. My master's degree advisor, von Hippel called it sticky information. In popular parlance, a picture is worth a thousand words, and often so is a good meal, a beautiful presentation, a delicate aroma, a delightful taste.

At the very least, I believe in the principle of decreasing returns to scale (of course we could have an interesting discussion why returns might be increasing). The privileging of one method of inquiry into the nature of the world over another, violates the idea of equalizing marginal rates of substitution.

To each his own, I suppose. The liberal answer. I just think you should give more credit to those who pursue truth in a different way.


Anonymous said...

well i guess the question is, how do you know people are "pursing truth" in this different way?

does that depend on their intentions or on the outcome?

what if you take someone out for this $350/pax dinner and they didn't appreciate any of the flavors, aromas, presentations at all (and even complained that the portions were small)? Did they "pursue truth", or gain anything out of it, even though they experienced the world in "a different way"?

HoBs said...

Well if they didn't appreciate it, then it's worth doing once, to at least know you won't appreciate it. That is knowledge/truth/whatever. Further, I'd ask why didn't they appreciate it, and perhaps think of ways to help them do so in the future. Not everyone that reads Shakespeare or Aristotle the first time appreciates it either.